The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the first pick and the 19th pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 27. Today, we profile Tony Mitchell.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Tony Mitchell
School: North Texas
Weight: 236 lbs.
Honors: 2013 All-Sun Belt 2nd Team
2012-2013 Per Game Stats: 13.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 44.0 FG%, 30.0 3PT%, 67.5 FT%
Tony Mitchell is a very interesting prospect in this upcoming NBA draft. Similar to Anthony Bennett, Mitchell looks to be a power forward type who could move to small forward because he has a decent outside shooting range. He also has a lot of potential as a defender and shot blocker. However, Mitchell’s production dropped significantly from his freshman season to last year, and there are a lot of red flags about his effort and basketball IQ. Let’s hash out the positives and negatives of Tony Mitchell’s game.
(Via Draft Express)
Athletically, Mitchell stacks up with the best of NBA power forwards. He’s got a great physical profile, at 6’8” and almost 240 pounds, and has solid length with a wingspan of 7’3”. His 38” vertical jump is solid as well, and Mitchell shows that in his game, where he is an explosive leaper, finisher and shot-blocker. He has decent quickness for a big as well, and while he’s probably not fast enough to handle quicker small forwards and wings, Mitchell should be able to survive easily if he slides down to the 3. Mitchell’s physical attributes lend to his immense potential, and he should be able to grow as an NBA player simply around these traits.
Mitchell’s offensive game has the makings of being something, but right now, it’s a little raw. Mitchell would be best suited in a faster-paced offense, where his abilities as a catch-and finish guy and PnR screen man would be well suited. He’s quite good at getting to the rim and using his big frame to set good picks, so this is where he will be effective right away. His offensive rebounding skills are also very good, which will help him contribute to the offensive side of the ball as well. He also has a decent three-point shot, and with the correct coaching, he should be able to develop into a threat from outside as well. Mitchell isn’t a good post-up player, lacking any real concrete go-to moves and panicking any time a team brings a double-team. He struggles with his back to the basket and in face-up situations, and this will be a bit of a problem when he can’t run the floor and gets forced into more conventional power forward play. He’s not a good passer either, which could be a hindrance, but his main concern offensively is his shot selection. Mitchell went from a 57 percent scorer as a more conventional power forward as a freshman for North Texas, to shooting 44 percent from the field as a sophomore. That dip came from a total lack of discipline on the offensive end, where Mitchell jacked up way too many mid-range jumpers and bad shots and was relied on a little too heavily by a bad North Texas squad. There’s a chance that Mitchell can become more disciplined under the right coach, but there’s also a chance that this shot selection problem dooms him to inefficiency.
Mitchell, when he wants to be, can be a good defensive player. He’s an adept shot blocker, using his athleticism and length to affect shots around the rim. He can also body up bigger defenders because of his strength and shouldn’t have much problem battling with very skilled bigs down low. Heck, he played outstanding defense on Sun Belt Player of the Year Augustine Rubit in the two games the Mean Green played against South Alabama. However, Mitchell’s defensive potential at the NBA level is very questionable. He is often very lazy on the defensive end, electing not to sprint back on D or not challenge an opposing guard driving to the hoop. He, at times, can look very Carlos Boozer-like on defense. He also struggles with rotations and closeouts and often just seems unaware of what is going on in front of him on defense. Many times last season he found himself letting smaller players beat him for defensive rebounds or not rotating over to contest a shot. Mitchell has the tools to be a good defensive player at the NBA level, but he is going to have to learn a lot and overcome his effort issues if he is going to have any impact on this end.
We already touched on this, but a lot of Mitchell’s red flags come from his production decrease and his effort issues. If these are problems in the NBA, Mitchell is doomed to failure. However, this can be somewhat explained. During his freshman season, coming off academic problems, Mitchell was a much more disciplined player under coach Johnny Jones. Jones left after last season to take over coaching duties at LSU and was replaced by Tony Benford, an assistant from Marquette who was in his first head coaching season. Jones was a very good coach and ran UNT at a fast pace and preached defense, as North Texas finished 26th in the nation in defensive efficiency. Under Benford, the Mean Green fell apart offensively and defensively, finishing 260th in offensive efficiency and 182nd in defensive efficiency. I think this has something to do with Mitchell’s regression. And really, I don’t think this makes Mitchell as poor of a prospect as initially thought. It just puts him in a category with guys like Lance Stephenson, Zach Randolph, Latrell Sprewell and every other player that’s come down the pipe and needs a strong coach or set of teammates to guide him to be effective. Put Mitchell in the right situation, and he’ll be fine. Put him on Sacramento or Charlotte, and he’ll be a black hole.
I see Mitchell as playing very similar to Anthony Tolliver: An extremely athletic stretch 4 who can play both ways but needs a good situation to be effective. Tolliver spent his first few years wasting away on dysfunctional Warriors and Timberwolves teams, then found a place as a guy who could play D, run the floor and hit the occasional three for the Hawks last season. I think this is eventually where Mitchell can end up, especially if he can become as adept at corner threes as Tolliver has. Especially if he’s going in the mid-20s in the first round, as he’s being projected to, that’s good value.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
I’m hesitant to trust that Cleveland is the best position for Mitchell to be in, if only because so much of the team is in flux right now. However, were the Cavs to draft him, Mitchell could provide some roster flexibility to the Cavaliers, allowing them to go big with lineups (none of the other post players could even dream of playing small forward) and giving him a couple good mentors in Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. I’d be fine with the Cavs taking Mitchell if Sergey Karasev or Reggie Bullock are gone because of his potential as a solid bench player. However, I think there are players who fit the team better than what Mitchell brings to the table.